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House of Commons Hansard
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11 October 2016
Volume 615
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13. What steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of men who take their own life. [906502]

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Tragically, suicide is now the biggest single cause of death in men under 50. There are 13 suicides every day, of which three quarters are men. I am currently reviewing our suicide strategy to make sure we leave no stone unturned in trying to reduce the totally unacceptable level of these tragedies.

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Yesterday marked the launch of the mental health awareness and suicide prevention campaign called “It takes balls to talk” across Coventry and Warwickshire. The campaign is a public information programme targeted at male-dominated sporting venues, which aims to direct men to help and support when they need it to promote positive mental health and reduce the incidence of male suicide. With suicide being the single most common cause of death in men under 45, will the Secretary of State take the opportunity to welcome and support this important new campaign?

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I am happy to do just that. I would like to thank the hon. Lady for bringing up this very important and difficult issue. We are making progress in reducing suicide rates, but we can do an awful lot better. The thing that troubles me most is that nearly three quarters of people who kill themselves have had no contact with specialist NHS mental health services in the previous year, even though in many cases we actually know who they are because, sadly, most of them have tried before. I am very happy to commend the “It takes balls to talk” campaign. She may want to put the campaign in touch with the national sport mental health charter, which is another scheme designed to use sport to try to boost the psychological wellbeing of men.

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A recent survey showed that one in four members of the emergency services experienced mental health problems, and that a number of them experienced suicidal thoughts. What is the Secretary of State doing to protect our vital paramedics and other ambulance staff, and to ensure that they get the support they need in dealing with absolutely appalling situations?

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Again, I thank the hon. Lady for raising that. She will be pleased to know that the NHS has introduced a scheme, backed with funding, to encourage NHS trusts to look after the mental wellbeing of their own staff. I particularly want to pay tribute to the courage of people who work in the air ambulance service, because they see—day in, day out—some of the most difficult and distressing cases. They have to cope with the pressure of that when they take it home every day, and we all salute them.